Thursday, April 06, 2017

Chuck's Choices for the weekend of April 6, 2017

As always, the choices are purely my personal opinion. Take with a grain (or a shaker) of salt.

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New This Week:

The Comedy of Errors
Photo: Autumn Rinaldi
St. Louis Shakespeare presents Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m., April 7-9. Performances take place at the Ivory Theatre, 7620 Michigan in the Carondelet neighborhood. For more information, call 314-361-5664 or visit

My take: The Comedy of Errors, unlike some of The Bard's comedies, doesn't require footnotes to explain most of its jokes since it depends on the hoary gag of mistaken identity. "Director Shaun Sheley maintains a brisk, breezy pace to accentuate The Bard’s comedy of mistaken identity in generally agreeable fashion," writes Mark Bretz at Ladue News. "Sheley’s version lasts just one act and 90 minutes but certainly gets across all the comedy, both intellectually and physically, of this frolic from the early years of the Shakespearean canon." As you can gather from Mark's comments, reviews for this one have been generally positive while still mentioning some weak points, but overall the show's emphasis on physical comedy has been well received.

Actors Theatre of Louisville
Photo: Bill Brymer
The Actors Theatre of Louisville presents the 2017 edition of The Humana Festival of New American Plays through Sunday, April 9th. The festival presents world premieres of seven new plays selected from 500 submissions in rotating repertory during the weekend at the Actors Theatre of Louisville performance space in downton Louisville, Kentucky.

My take: Yes, this isn't a St. Louis event, but it's only a four-hour drive straight east and it's a real feast for theatre lovers. Located in historic structures on Main Street, the Actors Theatre consists of the 637-seat Pamela Brown Auditorium, with a thrust stage; the 159-seat Victor Jory Theatre, a three-quarter arena performance space; and the 318-seat Bingham Theatre, a flexible arena space. Add in the palatial lobby, a nine-story parking garage, and a restaurant (called Milk Wood because it's located under the theatre-a punning reference to Dylan Thomas' famed verse play Under Milk Wood) and you have the kind of facility most theatre companies dream about. Better yet, it's only part of a general revitalization of downtown Louisville that includes fine hotels, restaurants, and bars, all within an easy walk of the theatre.

As I do every year, I made the pilgrimage to Louisville last weekend along with a brace of other local theatre folk, including my fellow KDHX theatre critic Tina Farmer. Tina and I did video blog reviews of six of the seven shows and we will be publishing longer written reviews this weekend at KDHX. I can tell you right now, though, that nearly all of the plays are worth seeing and three of them—Tasha Gordon-Solmon's comedy I Now Pronounce, Molly Smith Metzler's comedy/drama Cry it Out, and Chelsea Marcantel's charmingly eccentric valentine to air guitar Airness—are unqualified winners.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Ignite! New Play Festival presents a staged reading of the musical The Disappearing Man on Thursday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m. "St. Louis, 1936: A magician and his lovely assistant feel trapped in a small-time traveling circus and struggle to break free from their roles, while the lion tamer, ringmaster and clowns fight to protect their place in the world. Experience the bright lights of the big top and the darkness beneath in this new folk opera. Directed by the co-writer and director of Georama." The reading takes place at UMSL at Grand Center, 3651 Olive. The festival also presents a reading of the drama Corazon Eterno on Saturday, April 8, at 1 p.m. "On the cusp of adulthood, Julio and Julia meet and fall madly in love. But they must face disappointment, disagreements and distance before they can truly understand the enduring power of poetry, music and love. Corazon Eterno ("always in my heart") examines love - pragmatic and impossible, temporal and eternal. Svich also adapted Love in the Time of Cholera for Ignite! in 2013." The reading takes place in the Studio Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus.

My take: The Ignite! festival is a great opportunity to see the sausage of theatre being made by talented playwrights and performers. These are works in progress and audience feedback in welcome, so this is your chance to become part of the creative process. For more information:

Ken Haller
The Stage at KDHX presents Ken Haller in The Medicine Show on Saturday, April 8, at 8 p.m. "Ken Haller's shows have been described as "touching," "hilarious," "intimate," and "tremendously entertaining." In The Medicine Show, where "miracle cures" are peddled, Ken weaves songs as diverse as "The Physician" (Cole Porter), "Someone to Fall Back on," (Jason Robert Brown), "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir" (Stephen Sondheim) and more, into a narrative of how becoming a doctor is only the first step toward becoming a healer." The performances take place at The Stage at KDHX, 3524 Washington in Grand Center. For more information:

My take: "Haller is a charming and talented performer with a voice as smooth as a brandy Alexander," wrote Robert Mitchell in a KDHX review of Ken's Sondheim show back in 2011. I couldn't agree more. Ken is an immensely talented gent with impressive credentials in both the theatrical and cabaret worlds and he has been producing top-notch cabaret here in town as well as in Chicago and New York for several years now. And right now this country very much needs a show about the healing power of music.

Seven Guitars
The Black Rep presents the drama Seven Guitars by August Wilson through April 23. "Set in 1948 in the backyard of a Pittsburgh apartment house, Seven Guitars follows Floyd " Schoolboy" Barton's circle of friends and neighbors-the play's seven voices-as they spin a rich tale of the deck that's stacked against them, what they've lost and all they dream of. Part murder mystery, part memory play, Seven Guitars depicts the events leading up to the untimely death of Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton, a gifted blues guitarist. Released from jail after serving time for the crime of "worthlessness," Floyd tries to retrieve his guitar and get to Chicago to make a record. He believes he is on the brink of a career breakthrough, but bad decisions and worse luck prevent him from leaving Pittsburgh. " Performances take place in the Emerson Performance Space on the campus of Harris-Stowe State University in midwotn. For more information:

My take: The Black Rep has always done well by the deep, literate works of August Wilson, and this production appears to be no exception. "As always with Wilson," writes Bob Wilcox at KDHX, "Seven Guitars satisfies with its rich language and its deep humanity." In her review at, Judy Newmark praises the acting ensemble and singles out Black Rep founder Ron Himes as "giving the performance of his career."

Held Over:

Million Dollar Quartet
The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis presents the musical Million Dollar Quartet through April 9. "Million Dollar Quartet is the Tony® Award winning Broadway musical, inspired by the electrifying true story of the famed recording session that brought together rock 'n' roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time." Performances take place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus. For more information:

My take: This is clearly the week for "jukebox musicals" in St. Louis, with both Million Dollar Quartet and Motown the Musical (see below) available for your nostalgic pleasure. "Million Dollar Quartet is a big, celebratory rock 'n roll party," writes Tina Farmer in an upcoming review for KDHX, "filled with early classic rock songs, good-humored teasing, and the heart and soul of a dedicated promoter. The show's got a beat you can dance to and engaging, infectious performances, ensuring a whole lotta shaking and a fitting close to The Rep's anniversary season. " "At times," says Mark Bretz at Ladue News, "The Rep's presentation of Million Dollar Quartet seems more like a concert than a musical, an infectious good time woven around a fascinating story...Million Dollar Quartet is a fitting end to The Rep's financially prosperous and critically acclaimed season. There's a whole lotta shakin' goin' on that set."

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